Bonding Battle Looms at State Capitol
When Governor Ned Lamont insisted earlier this year that Connecticut cut back on bonding, he drew the ire of a number of state lawmakers.
Lamont suggested a “debt diet” as part of his budget proposal in February, saying the state can’t afford to put its “future on the credit card.”
Although Lamont and lawmakers adopted a $43 billion biennial budget on time, they have yet to agree on a two-year bonding package.
As a result, a $60 million program that goes to municipalities for summer road projects has yet to be released.
At issue is Lamont’s desire to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.
He had sought in the 2019 General Assembly session to convince lawmakers to place tolls on certain state highways to help fund transportation.
But there was too much opposition.
So now, Lamont and his fellow Democrats can’t agree on a bonding package.
Lamont chief of staff Ryan Drajewicz told the Connecticut Mirror the governor insists on borrowing less and spending some of it on transportation.
He said the state, just as taxpayers do at home, must live within its means.
“The ‘must-dos’ take precedence over the ‘nice-to-haves,'” Drajewicz said.
“The governor is of the strong opinion that modernizing and upgrading the state’s transportation system is a ‘must-do’ and essential to the state’s economic growth, providing higher return.”
Connecticut averaged about $1.59 billion a year in bond authorizations between 2012 and 2019, with current obligations of $31.7 billion.
Debt service cost the state $2.2 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, and is projected to rise 23% to $2.7 billion by fiscal 2022.
“Connecticut is one of the nation’s leaders in per-capita state debt, in part because the state puts too much on its credit cards,” Drajewicz said.
“That debt service costs real money, with real implications on the General Fund.”
“I can understand the governor looking to use the bonding issue as leverage,” Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) told the Mirror.
“That’s something that governing chief executives do to achieve some policy purpose.”
But Looney noted that the standoff is hurting taxpayers whose local roads aren’t being fixed and community-based programs that work with the disabled and other people who need help.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) said Senate Republicans would stand with the governor in opposing any bonding package that wastes money or fails to prioritize Connecticut’s needs.
“If he vetoes it, we’ll support his veto,” Fasano said. “We don’t want to bond excessively.”
During the legislative session, Sen. John Fonfara (D-Hartford), who co-chairs the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, introduced a bill removing control of state bonding from the governor and passing it to the legislature.
The bill cleared the committee but was not called in the House or Senate.
EXPLORE BY CATEGORY
Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests
The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.